Detroit's Justin Verlander struck out 11 batters and surrendered only one run in seven innings to spark the Tigers over Oakland 3-1 on Saturday in a Major League Baseball playoff game.
The Tigers seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five American League series with game two on Sunday at Detroit, while Cincinnati have a 1-0 lead in the National League series after a 5-2 win over San Francisco.
The winner of the Detroit and Oakland series will next face either the Baltimore Orioles or the New York Yankees to decide a berth in the World Series final.
Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce each smashed home runs to help power Cincinnati past the Giants, with the winner of that series to face either the Washington Nationals or St. Louis Cardinals for a World Series berth.
Cincinnati took a 2-0 lead on a two-run homer by Phillips over the left-centerfield wall in the third off Giants starter Matt Cain.
"He left a hanging curve ball up there and I took advantage of it," Phillips said.
Suddenly the shock loss of Cueto seemed less of a worry for the Reds.
"That gave us a big lift," Baker said.
Oakland, who have Aussie pitching duo Grant Balfour and Travis Blackley on their roster, opened the scoring through Coco Crisp's leadoff solo home run off Verlander in the first innings, but it was one of only three hits the 29-year-old right-hander would allow.
"I felt pretty good," Verlander said. "I was a little out of sync early but I started finding my pitches and was able to get some outs."
"We have two games at home. We need to get both of them because Oakland is a tough place to play."
Detroit's Miguel Cabrera - the first Major League Baseball slugger since 1967 to win the "Triple Crown" of season titles in homers, batting average and runs batted in - knocked in the equaliser later in the first when he grounded into a double play.
That helped Verlander put aside the homer he surrendered to Crisp.
"It's like a heavyweight fight and in the first round you get popped in the face," Verlander said. "We came back right away. That's the sign of a good team."
The Tigers took the lead in the third when an error by Oakland's Jarrod Parker allowed Detroit's Omar Infante to score.
Detroit's Alex Avila smacked a fastball from Oakland pitcher Jarrod Parker over the left-field wall for a homer in the fifth inning to score the last run.